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Archive: December, 2009

POSTED: Thursday, December 31, 2009, 9:06 AM

Welcome to Act II of Generation Hexed. In yesterday’s curtain-raiser (read that and more here), the audience heard a tale of how about 45 million Americans in their 30s and early 40s are sliding down the opportunity ladder.

It observed how, in 2004, thirtysomething men were earning 12 percent less than their fathers were, in inflation-adjusted dollars, three decades earlier.

Today’s scene — “Debt, Stagnant Wages, and You: Perfect Together” — begins with a dramatic reading from an April 2003 report by the United States General Accounting Office.

“The younger generations, especially Generation X, have higher levels of debt than current retirees did at similar ages,” said the GAO analysis of wealth and future income.

“The median level of debt for the Baby Boom is 38 percent greater than that for the Pre-Baby Boom generation.” (Boomers: worse than the generation that preceded them.)

“Generation X’s median level of debt is 146 percent greater than that of the Pre-Baby Boom generation and 78 percent greater than that of the Baby Boom.” (Xers: in deeper than the Titanic.)

But why, Sherlock? Well, Watson, let’s look to the real estate listings for a clue.

“The increase in debt levels between the Baby Boom and Generation X,” the GAO writes, “was due largely to increases in housing debt.”

Perhaps you are to blame, Xer. Perhaps you lavished yourself recklessly with more house than you deserved and not enough cash on the front end. Surely, there are self-destructive gluttons among you. This is, after all, Land of the Credit Card.

But that’s not very like you. Market researchers say you are a practical lot compared with the 80 million boomers ahead of you who grew up during the wave of sustained economic growth after World War II.

You were latchkey children and guinea pigs of mass-produced divorce. You were coddled by The Fonz, not June Cleaver. You’re scrappy and skeptical and tend not to overreach.

So, then, let’s look at the housing market, shall we? You may recall that in the late 1990s, as Xers were barely out of their twenties and prowling for hearth and home, dot-com went “pop” and housing went all “snap, crackle” on us.

For the entire century before that, home prices had grown 1 percent a year, on average. But from 1997 to 2006, prices rose 7 percent on average each year, according to a recent Inquirer article.

Real median income growth, meanwhile, flattened from 2000 to 2005, the Pew Charitable Trusts found. Imagine the impact on midcareer Xers just starting to get a grip on life. Say ouch with me.

“It’s very hard for Gen Xers, for young people in that period, to purchase housing,” Barbara D. Bovbjerg, who heads education, workforce, and income-security issues at GAO, told me this week.

Many boomers, by virtue of their age, had bought houses before the bubble. But now even many of them are swimming in debt, too, Bovbjerg said, after splurging with the riches of home equity.

“The housing prices drive both, the savings and the debt, for the boomers and Gen X,” she said.
College debt? We’re not even tackling that plague on Gen X and the 88 million boomer spawn behind Gen X.

Tomorrow we talk retirement. They say such an Eden exists. But Xer, buckle up.

Maria Panaritis @ 9:06 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 3:10 AM

You are somewhere between 35 and 45 years old, give or take, and you can’t shake the feeling that things just aren’t adding up for you, your family, your generation.

The bosses and politicians in charge — many of whom are older than you — don’t talk about you much, even as your job bites the dust or you gripe about money in the cubicle next door.

You’re still so young, they say. (No hair dye yet.) You can reinvent yourself. (Presto, change-o!) You don’t even like job security. (You Pearl Jam-loving free spirit!) The real sad sacks, they say time and again, are the Baby Boomers. Don’t you read the papers? (You little brat.)

Maria Panaritis @ 3:10 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 3:10 AM
Filed Under: Pharma, Biotech

When the Phillies unloaded Cliff Lee to make room for Roy Halladay in a deal worth many millions, it coincided with my boss telling me to get ready, because I’d be filling in for Mike Armstrong this week.

Great! I could explore how it is that men who hurl stitched cowhide for a living are appraised like van Goghs at auction. What is the formula for one’s worth? It would be fun.

I had done the requisite reading and located business experts who measure success and failure in greenbacks.

Maria Panaritis @ 3:10 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, December 28, 2009, 2:05 AM
Filed Under: Pharma, Biotech

Remember initial public offerings?

As cold as it’s been around here over the last week, it’s been positively arctic-like for the IPO market. Renaissance Capital said there were only 63 IPOs in the United States in 2009, after a dismal 43 in 2008 - well below the more than 200 a year from 2004 through 2007.

The last Philadelphia-area company to go public was CardioNet Inc., of Conshohocken. Actually, it completed its IPO in March 2008 while it was based in San Diego before moving its headquarters east.

POSTED: Friday, December 25, 2009, 2:05 AM

You can find a prediction for how the economy will fare in 2010 to fit any point of view.

Worried about jobs? There’s still a lot to worry about even as the pace of firing has slowed.

Concerned whether clients and customers will spend money? Businesses are still being extra-cautious, while U.S. consumers have yet to resume their spend-like-there’s-no-tomorrow ways.

POSTED: Thursday, December 24, 2009, 2:05 AM

It’s the most wonderful time of year for lists of the best and worst of everything.

My taste in trivia trends toward the corporate, rather than the cultural. Market researcher IBISWorld Wednesday picked the best and worst industries of the decade. The metric of choice was revenue change from 2000 to 2009.

Fast-growing revenues generally translate into expanding companies that are creating new jobs. You don’t have to do a Google search to know that the search engine sector was one of the best in the last 10 years. IBISWorld said revenues rose 1,656 percent over the decade.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 2:05 AM
Filed Under: Financial Services

Two small banks have extended their engagement to March 31, 2010.

Metro Bancorp Inc., of Harrisburg, agreed to buy Republic First Bancorp Inc., of Philadelphia, in a stock transaction valued at $113 million in November 2008.

Shareholders of both publicly traded banks had approved the transaction in mid-March.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 2:05 AM

The end of the year always brings a flurry of deal-making, and not just in the store aisles.

After all, Jan. 1 is a new tax year, and companies have all sorts of reasons to want to buy, sell or strike those strategic partnerships beforehand.

Monday brought word of two multi-million-dollar life-sciences transactions involving area companies.

About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at

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